By Mario Dhingsa
Dissection & Reflection’s rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
‘Away’ is not just a stunning film to watch, but also essential visual therapy for anyone stuck in lockdown. Moving and meditative, brooding and beautiful, this marvellous movie is as poignant as ‘The Little Prince’, as perilous as ‘Mad Max’, as magical as ‘Spirited Away’, and as foreboding as ‘Labyrinth’.
The plot is elegantly simple: A boy crash-lands on an island, and from the outset, is chased across an enthralling land by a giant malevolent spirit. Nothing is ever spoken, for the film is without dialogue, but you won’t miss it. Everything here is expressed - clearly and naturally - through action, reaction, emotion and tone.
‘Away’ is the best of Disney without the worst of Disney. It is a film to be enjoyed by all ages, and by every generation. Its journey is thrilling and dangerous, tragic and humorous. And here, real actions lead to realistic consequences. One of the gifts of its writer is that in such a magical world, the fanciful seems logical, and the unbelievable remains believable. This is just one of the many acts of genius that the film has up its sleeve. Imagine if the astonishing, wordless storytelling of the first ten minutes of ‘Up’ continued throughout that whole film – well, this film has the nerve to do it!
This movie is the splendid product of gifted Latvian film-maker, Gints Zilbalodis. Such is the diligence of the creator that he received nine credits for his work here - Orson Welles only had four for ‘Citizen Kane’. Zilbalodis’ credits include writer, director, composer, and producer. Given the multiple nominations and awards that the movie has garnered on the film festival circuit, it is no surprise that it is much loved, and held in high esteem, by many.
The score is one of my favourite aspects of the movie. It is exceptionally well-crafted, from the ominous tension of each chase, to the joyful swells of emotional delight, the soundtrack will sweep you away each time. Such is its excellence that the film was nominated at the 2020 Annie Awards in the same category as ‘Frozen II’ and ‘Toy Story 4’, for Outstanding Achievement for Music in an Animated Feature Production. After you experience this film, you’ll know why ‘Away’ could compete with Hollywood.
Watching ‘Away’ will leave you with much to thank Zilbalodis for. He’ll show you incredible scenes of sheer animated beauty. He’ll take you back to being a 12 year old again. He’ll make you want to ride a motorcycle through a shallow lake. In our current lives of loneliness and isolation, Zilbalodis has offered you a chance to discover and travel, as fast as you can go, and as much as you can handle. You’ll see a forbidden oasis. You’ll soar across a mirrored lake. You’ll be led by cats to a well of dreams. There is always death to fear, in this world and Zilbalodis’; but there is more to life than death. ‘Away’ reminds us that there is love, and there is light, and there is laughter.
AWAY is out now on all major digital download platforms, as well as various independent cinema platforms, including Curzon Home Cinema and Modern Films.